How to Create More Loyal Customers with Digital Tools

Photo credit: Adam Jang on Unsplash

Restaurant loyalty is the “secret ingredient” that brings guests back to stores. It is the love and commitment guests have toward a brand because of a great product or experience. A recent study by Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) shows that restaurant sales increased in Q1, yet in-store traffic decreased. NRN references rising menu prices as the cause for higher sales, but some guests may see higher prices as a barrier to eating out. The best way to combat declining traffic and increase sales is to build more loyalty with a digital omnichannel strategy.

An omnichannel approach uses different technologies like your app, website, social pages, and third party sites — Grubhub, Yelp, Google Business Pages —  to create a fully integrated guest engagement strategy. The key lies in building a consistent experience at every touchpoint. Guests are already interacting with these channels: they’re Googling restaurants, checking social media, and browsing third-party sites for the best place to eat. Meet them on their turf to build a lasting relationship.

Engage Guests on Social Media

45% of diners will decide where to eat because of the information they find on social media.

Create meaningful content to attract guests to your social pages. Make a short video that highlights a staff member or event. Share an image that echoes your brand’s values — sweetgreen is proud of its sustainability, and images of composting resonate with their audience. This kind of content forges a personal connection that will grab your guests’ attention. Millennials are especially looking for more engaging experiences.

Sustainability is very important to millennials.

Practice “social listening” and chat with guests who share your content or comment on your posts. Thank them for being a part of your community to create a more memorable interaction. Don’t forget to request feedback to show that you’re committed to improving their experience.

Respond to Reviews

Diners love to speak their minds, and 94% say reviews influence their decision when choosing where to eat. Guests will leave reviews on sites like Grubhub and Yelp because it’s a convenient place to order food and provide immediate feedback.

KFC reviews on Grubhub’s website.

No matter what guests write, it’s important that you respond quickly and professionally. Customer service is another key factor for diners when choosing where to eat, and you can use your response as an opportunity to turn them into advocates. Thanking someone for their review goes “above and beyond” and will strengthen your relationship with them.

Yelp review of Aceituna Grill, a Mediterranean restaurant in Boston.

Need ideas on how to respond? Check out Grubhub’s Best Practices for Replying to Reviews.

Create Personalized and Unique Experiences for Guests

Differentiate your restaurant brand from the competition by creating one-of-a-kind, individual interactions with diners.

One way to get started is to advertise promotions based on a guest’s purchase history. POS systems integrated with a powerful CRM contain a treasure trove of data that help you identify your diners’ habits. Is a guest ordering only vegetarian options? Send a promotion for a meatless burger that caters to his or her choices. Is someone’s birthday approaching? Celebrate his or her special day with a free item or special offer.

You can go above and beyond by setting up a digital loyalty program. Potbelly’s spend-based program unlocks member-only perks at higher levels. Members receive invitations to special events and gain access to a hidden menu.

Qdoba uses loyalty tiers differently. Guests rise through the ranks based on the number of visits and also accumulate points with each purchase. Dedicated patrons receive special bonuses like $2 chips and queso, and a monthly mystery perk.

Burger King wanted to increase app downloads and created a deal for a $0.01 Whopper. To redeem the offer, diners needed to log into the app within 600 feet of a McDonald’s location. Sending guests to a competitor is risky, but this paid off for Burger King — downloads increased from 2 million to 6 million.

Offering unique and memorable rewards is another great way to show your guests love. &pizza rewards its “tribe members” with a free tattoo of their logo if they wish to get one.

Photo credit: The Daily Meal

Building restaurant loyalty is a surefire way to create a lasting impression on your guests that will bring them back to your brand. Check out our collection of loyalty-related blog posts, and subscribe to the blog below for more insights.

Ray Bugayong

Ray Bugayong

Ray is the Demand Gen Manager at LevelUp. As a former small business owner, his involvement with local food groups fuels his culinary creativity. When he's not dreaming of food, you can find him at the gym or a local cocktail bar dreaming up his next entrepreneurial pursuit.

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